Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Raising Minimum Starting Wages to $15 per Hour Would Eliminate Seven Million Jobs

By James Sherk, July 26, 2016, Democracy Now

Prominent Members of Congress have proposed raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, more than doubling the federal minimum wage. States with lower costs of living would see an even greater real increase. At the state level, the minimum wage would cover one-third of wage and salary workers. The new minimum-wage legislation, including payroll taxes and the employer mandate, would increase the minimum cost of hiring a full-time worker to $18.61 per hour. Businesses would respond to these higher labor costs by reducing employment of affected workers by over one-sixth, thus eliminating approximately seven million full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs by 2021. Forcing employers to pay starting wages of $15 per hour would make many less skilled workers unemployable. (read article)

Union urges cops to refuse ‘non-mandatory’ Labor Day weekend OT

By Fran Spielman, July 25, 2016, Chicago Sun-Times

The decision to declare Sept. 2, 3, 4 and 5 “FOP Unity Days” was communicated to rank-and-file police officers in a union flier. If a majority of rank-and-file officers follow the directive issued to rank-and-file officers in a union flier, it has the potential to underscore a severe manpower shortage masked by runaway overtime that topped $116 million last year. It could also leave the city woefully short of the officers needed to tamp down violence over the long holiday weekend.“In order to show unity and to protest the continued disrespect of Chicago Police officers and the killing of law enforcement officers across our country, we are requesting FOP members to refrain from volunteering to work for any and all special secondary and other types of non-mandatory overtime employment for the entire Labor Day weekend,” the flier states. (read article)

Labor Unions Use Technology to Grow and Maintain Membership

By Howard M. Bloom, July 25, 2016, The National Law Review

Labor unions today are “tech” savvy, using mobile app and other technology to grow and maintain their memberships. According to a report in the Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs Daily Labor Report (136 DLR C-1 July 18, 2016), a number of labor unions, including the International Association of Machinists, Communication Workers of America, and Service Employees International Union, are using app technology to inform members of union news, sign political action petitions, access video clips and pictures, read press releases, view union social media accounts, and report workplace violations, all with the goal of reaching and growing their memberships. (read article)

How Union Deals Have Derailed The California High-Speed Railway

By Connor D. Wolf, July 24, 2016, Daily Caller

California’s attempt to connect the state with a high-speed railway system has faced major setbacks thanks in part to union deals. The California High Speed Rail Authority (HSR) began construction in 2014 with the hopes of connecting close to a dozens cities. The project has faced major delays and financial difficulties. The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction (CFEC) notes the railway is plagued with problems — including union influence. “The approval was made in 2008 and since then they have basically been struggling to get anything beyond an initial amount that was approved,” CFEC Executive Director Eric Christen told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The problem is that there’s no source of funding. (read article)

Trump’s courtship of union members complicated by Pence

By Tim Devaney, July 24, 2016, The Hill

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wants to reach out to blue-collar workers, but his running mate isn’t going to make that easy. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is a free-trade supporter who has opposed lifting the minimum wage. Neither of those positions is going to help the GOP ticket with labor unions; AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Pence the “second worst” vice presidential pick in history. Labor leaders like Trumka are backing presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but Trump believes he can win over rank-and-file union members who are turned off by the Democrat. But that outreach will be complicated by the selection of Pence, labor officials say.  (read article)

Why Black Lives Matter Is Taking On Police Unions

By Adeshina Emmanuel, July 23, 2016, AlterNet

Activists in the movement for black lives are working to lift the veil on one of the most powerful influences in law enforcement: police unions. The focus is no longer just on individual officers; it’s on the institutions that protect and shield them. Organizers protested at the offices of two of the nation’s largest police unions this week as part of a nationwide week of action under the banner #Freedomnow. Protesting organized labor may seem like a surprising move for a radical group. “We’re definitely pro-labor union,” explains Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100) organizer Clarise McCants. “But our message is that the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is not just like any union,” she said. “They are a fraternity—and they are the most dangerous fraternity in America.” (read article)

Former VA Labor Union President Sentenced For Pocketing Funds

By Dan Chaison, July 22, 2016, Daily Caller

William Davis, a former local chapter president for the American Federation of Government Employees, was sentenced on Wednesday for embezzling $150,000 in funds. The 56 year-old New York resident will serve 15 months in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to stealing from the union. The AFGE is the largest national labor union, representing 670,000 federal workers. Davis’ chapter, Local 1119, covers 300 employees of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Montrose, N.Y. (read article)

Coming Tax Hikes For Government Pensions, How Much Will You Pay?

By Chuck DeVore, July 22, 2016, Forbes

Decades of generous pension increases made to government employees by politicians are looming larger on state and local government balance sheets across America. Days ago, Ted Eliopoulos, head of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), announced that he earned 0.61 percent in the prior year on a $300-billion-dollar investment fund—California’s worst year since the stock market meltdown in 2009. CalPERS expects to earn 7.5 percent annually on its investments. Last year, the nation’s largest state and local pension fund returned 2.5 percent; the year before, 1 percent. (read article)

After Obama, GOP platform moves right on labor issues

By Sean Higgins, July 20, 2016, Washington Examiner

There is not much for labor leaders to like in the Republican Party’s 2016 platform. It is one of the toughest the party has had in the last four decades in terms of calling for union power to be reined in, a direct response to President Obama, one of the most pro-union presidents in decades. The latest platform calls for such reforms as a national right-to-work law to prohibit workers from being forced to join or support a union. It also demands that the National Labor Relations Board, the main federal labor law enforcement agency, be defanged; opposes the Labor Department’s recent move to expand worker overtime requirements; and calls for the repeal of laws that benefit unions in federal contracting. The new version promises to “bring labor law into the 21st century” by getting rid of regulations that it says strangle innovation, shackle employers and employees alike and have no place in the modern economy. (read article)

California transportation workers reject sellout contract

By Isaac Fin, July 20, 2016, World Socialist Website 

In a vote earlier this month, maintenance workers employed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) overwhelming rejected a sellout contract negotiated between the state government and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). The roughly 12,000 electricians, window cleaners, aqueduct construction workers and truck drivers have been working without a contract since July 1, 2015. The state and IUOE Unit 12 came to an agreement last June, which include a 10 percent pay raise over four years that would translate into a pay decrease after adjusting for inflation and changes in benefits. Union officials have not disclosed the number of workers who voted, but admitted that 67 percent of those voting rejected the contract. The vote also authorized the union to conduct a strike if ongoing negotiations reach an impasse. (read article)

Why construction unions are fighting Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for more housing

By Liam Dillon, July 20, 2016, Los Angeles Times

A fight over construction worker pay has left Gov. Jerry Brown and a powerful labor group at a stalemate over the governor’s plan to speed up housing development for low-income Californians, leaving uncertainty over whether a final deal can be reached before the end of the legislative session in August. Brown has proposed legislation to streamline approval for housing with units for low-income residents. The State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents ironworkers, roofers, electrical workers and other construction unions, wants Brown to force home builders to pay construction workers at rates often equivalent to union wages to qualify under the plan, something the governor is resisting. (read article)

California’s unemployment insurance system stuck in a deep hole

By Dan Walters, July 19, 2016, The Sacramento Bee

Throughout his second governorship, Jerry Brown has preached fiscal responsibility – being careful about spending, paying down debt and building up reserves. It has been, in effect, a repudiation of his two immediate predecessors, Democrat Gray Davis and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who squandered revenue windfalls, ran up debt and left their successors with big deficits. Brown has been, however, reticent about a big deficit that’s plagued the state’s system of unemployment compensation and left it very vulnerable to a meltdown in the next recession he says is inevitable. Rather than keep it intact as a prudent hedge against recession, Davis and legislators succumbed to pressure from labor unions and nearly doubled unemployment benefits to a maximum of $450 a week. (read article)

Covered California rates to jump average of 13 percent in 2017

By Victoria Colliver, July 19, 2016, Press-Enterprise

After two years of moderate rate increases, Californians who get their coverage through the state health insurance marketplace will see their 2017 premiums increase by an average of 13.2 percent. That’s more than triple the average 4 percent rate increases that consumers have seen since the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange started offering coverage in 2014. The preliminary rates for Bay Area counties are even higher than the state average, with San Francisco premiums set to increase by nearly 15 percent. “We’ve known for a long time that 2017 will be a transition year,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, in a media conference call Tuesday morning to announce next year’s rates. Lee blamed two of the biggest plans — Anthem, which sells Blue Cross plans, and Blue Shield of California — for helping to drive the double-digit rate increase. (read article)

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